USD 489 BOE discusses curriculum at Monday’s meeting


Hays High Principal Shawn Henderson and Assistant Principal Becky Hickert presented during Monday’s Board of Education meeting about changes to course offerings.

Henderson emphasized these changes help leverage students’ IPS or Individual Plans of Study. 

The administration has held course guide meetings with teachers to discuss these changes – starting with Advanced Placement or AP social studies teachers. Hickert noted a disparity in enrollment between Honors level courses at lower grade levels and the enrollment in AP classes.

Hickert said teachers believe the drop in enrollment is because the AP designation requires adherence to a certain curriculum. 

“It kind of binds them to this specified outline of content that doesn’t allow them to necessarily reach students’ interests, connect with the community in the way that they would like to, ”Hickert said. “We would like to pursue more IPS connections in those curricula.” 

The other AP teachers were consulted and they agreed to instead call these courses Honors courses. Students would still have the opportunity to take the AP exams and pursue concurrent credit, but the course curriculum could be more flexible since it would no longer be bound by the College Board distinction.

Henderson then addressed changes to the science curriculum. Currently, all Hays High students are required to take Integrated Science, Biology and Chemistry. The Science Department decided not all students should be required to take Chemistry. 

Henderson mentioned that when looking at 11 other 5A and 6A schools, Hays High was the only school to require Chemistry. State Science requirements can be met in those first few years without needing students to enroll in Chemistry.

Instead, students would take a science elective.

The department has yet to decide on electives, but some of the ideas include genetics, astronomy, zoology, crime lab forensics, geology and electronics. Those elective courses would be offered on a rotating basis.

“There is a lot of opportunity for a student to find their possibility and opportunity in what they’re interested in and take it and run,” Henderson said.

Hickert said that many students will still take Chemistry, even with the other options available. 

“If you’re going into engineering or medicine or Ag, you’re going to need Chemistry and a lot of these can be concurrently enrolled,” Hickert said. “So we know that Chemistry isn’t going away for a lot of students.”

Another change would be the order of the classes. Currently, Biology is a sophomore class, but under the new format, Biology would be the freshman science class, followed by Physical Science during students’ sophomore year.

Board Member Curt Vajnar is a retired Hays High teacher who taught BIology for several years. 

“I do have concerns about Biology on a freshman level,” Vajnar said. “You’re going to have some kids struggle.”

Additional courses would also be offered, such as an English as a Second Language (ESL) Learning Lab, which would add additional support for students who speak limited English, and a teaching as a Career course, which would partner with Fort Hays and place students in the classroom as an introduction to teaching course.

Finally, a new series of four courses would be offered for juniors. This series would count for junior English, US History, Math and a Music Appreciation credit. According to Hickert, these courses would be taught through a more project-based approach.

Some other items addressed at the meeting included:

  • The board approved $1,358,039 to convert the Hays High football field to turf and add lightning systems
  • A first reading of an agreement that would include Russell in the West Central Kansas Special Education Cooperative starting in the 2024-2025 school year
  • The board approved food service equipment that was awarded to USD 489 through National School Lunch Program School Equipment Grants
  • The board approved the recommended school calendar for 2023-2024
  • The board approved the extension of District Level Administrators Contacts one year 

The next board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on February 6 in the Rockwell Administration Building.

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